FEBRUARY 15, 1876 – DECEMBER 2, 1961
The founder of Silverwood Dairies, A. E. Silverwood was born in 1876 in Victoria County, Ontario to parents William Alexander Silverwood and Mary Jane Cooney. In 1899 Silverwood got a job for Flavelles Limited of Lindsay Ontario. Two years later he got married to Eva M. Ferris of Lindsay. In 1903 the company placed him at their new location in London, Ontario, a hub for Western Ontario egg and poultry producers. Later that year Silverwood opened Silverwood Produce with just one assistant.
For the first six years Silverwood operated his company with half equity given to Flavelles Limited. Throughout this time, Silverwood developed a reliable export channel to Great Britian for Western Ontario turkeys. By 1910 Silverwood’s business was handling 50,000 turkey a year, making him a wealthy man, but not one who intended to rest on his laurels.
In 1913 Silverwood secured a group of Montreal investors to buy out Flavelles and provide the capital for Silverwood’s expansion across London. In 1916 Silverwood had developed a business centred around quality principles. Purchases were made off of strictly graded standards, guaranteeing weight of butterfat in production and educating all producers and handlers of the companies cream. By 1918 Silverwood and other London business men had bought out the Montreal shares and began to expand out of the London market.
In 1928 Silverwood Dairies Limited was established. Silverwood did so to create a holding company for the various ventures as well as to clearly demarcate the specialization the company had underwent since founding. By this point, Silverwood was a dairy magnate, owning subsidiaries as far as Western Canada and with the company taking in over 4 million dollars of sales that year.
Part of Silverwood’s success was a willingness to invest early in new products. In 1914 he purchased a multi-story building from the London Cold Storage Company (a company he would later buy outright). Silverwood used this building as a creamery and invested in ice cream equipment shortly after. When his company began to manufacture ice cream they were one of only two wholesale manufacturers in the city of London. Silverwood was willing to support the ice cream branches financial losses with his cream and butter production. Just as he had once done for these products with his poultry.
It paid off, by 1919 Silverwood had seven dedicated ice cream delivery wagons. Delivering not only Silverwood’s ice cream but also the crushed ice to keep it cold. The war years had also created the opportunity for fluid milk production. Silverwood began by supplying pasteurized milk to the soldiers at Wolseley Barracks in 1916. In 1922 Silverwood began the commercial sale of milk and in 1930 he installed the Canada’s first plate-type pasteurizers in his production facilities.
The 1920s also saw a huge increase in inter-city delivery rates. Rather than succumbing to the higher overhead Silverwood moved to purchase more facilities in outside markets. Local businesses were bought out and reformed in places such as Hamilton, Caledonia, Chatham, Woodstock and Edmonton, Winnipeg, Peterborough and Regina, to name but a few. Even into the 1940s Silverwood was consistently expanding, offering shareholders new bond options to finance further development of the company’s holdings.
Although fluid milk and ice cream became the primary money-makers Silverwood always remained diversified producing evaporated milk, creamery butter, milk powders, condensed milks, powdered buttermilk, cheddar cheese, poultry and eggs alongside his major industries.
Silverwood was also involved in other organizations. He was elected Hospital Trust for London in 1929. He was a founder shareholder of the Gachin Gold Syndicate, a successful gold investment partnership. Perhaps most interesting, however, was his role as chairman of the League for the Advancement of Coloured People. Intended to be a Canadian equivalent of the NAACP the League never saw expansion outside of Southern Ontario. Silverwood had always been willing to employ black Canadians, a contrast to the attitudes of many others at the time. The League was effective in his local community; however, by helping young black Canadians to continue their education despite disruptive factors.
In 1948 Silverwood allowed his son Edward Gordon to take over as president and lessened his involvement in his role as chairman of the board. With more time to relax Silverwood frequently spent his winters in Arizona or Hawaii, content to relax with the fortune he had accumulated. Silverwood passed away in 1961 after having built a multimillion-dollar company from nothing. His investments and innovations contributed to a great boom in the dairy industry not just in London, but across the nation.